In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC
In the UK: E4, Channel 4, at some point. Assuming there aren’t any cutbacks
My Name is Earl used to be quite a cool show. Well, maybe not cool. Sweet maybe. Maybe a little patronising to red necks, but the general idea of nice things happening to a guy who decides to make amends for all the bad things he’s done was lovely and usually enjoyable to watch, even if it was a little low on the belly laughs.
Season three messed that up, by sending Earl to prison and generally looking at the darker side of things. No one liked that much. I believe that a UK TV executive even cited it as a show that had lost its way – “it’s like a road movie but it’s forgotten to have any jokes” was his general summing up of it.
Is season four back on the right side on the road?
Well, we’ve two episodes to play with here to get a feel for season four and I can’t say I came out of it thinking this was must-see TV. It’s back on track again – in fact, it’s so back on track, I thought I’d missed an episode where they explained how everything had got back on track, since we leap right into things again. But it’s still not desperately funny.
In episode one, Earl and his buddies have to make a movie to appease former “make a wish” kid Seth Green, whose pony Earl stole on the eve of a parade. In episode two, Earl tries to help his father get revenge on someone (I won’t explain why to avoid spoilers). They’re both quite nice, with the usual heart-warming endings; there are a few funny set pieces (Randy’s acting demonstration in part one is probably the best). But big laughs or clever cultural insights? Not so many.
Still an enjoyable way to spend half an hour if there’s nothing edgier; easy to understand for a newbie, even if none of the characters are explained. But appointment TV? Not any more.